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Plaintiffs in two DOMA cases file briefs opposing a stay in their cases

DOMA trials

By Scottie Thomaston

Two sets of plaintiffs in two pending challenges to Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) are opposing motions to stay the proceedings in their respective cases. Since the Supreme Court granted review in United States v. Windsor, motions to stay proceedings have been filed in many of the remaining DOMA cases working their way through the lower courts. The Court took up the question of the statute’s constitutionality, so the argument is that having the lower courts decide the question while it’s pending at the Supreme Court is a waste of time and judicial resources.

In both filings – by plaintiffs in Cooper-Harris v. USA, a DOMA military benefits case, and Aranas v. Napolitano, a DOMA immigration case – the fact that the Court has asked the parties to brief and argue jurisdictional and standing questions is discussed. The filings note that since there are questions whether the Court can even reach the merits of DOMA’s constitutionality, they may or may not decide the issue.

And both of these cases also involve statutes aside from Section 3 of DOMA: there are military benefit statutes and immigration laws at issue here as well. The briefs point to these, arguing that even resolution of Windsor on the merits at the Supreme Court won’t answer the remaining questions in these cases.

And last, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), who is defending the law since the Justice Department dropped its defense, will not suffer irreparable harm, both filings argue. And both point out that the plaintiffs would be harmed by stalling proceedings in these cases. The filings point to harms like failing health and a medical condition (in the military benefits case) and being deported and breaking up a family (in the immigration case.)

h/t Kathleen for these filings


2:12-cv-00887 #73 by EqualityCaseFiles


8:12-cv-01137 #115 by EqualityCaseFiles


  • 1. Matt N  |  January 9, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Maybe I read it too quickly, but I don't see anything in the immigration-benefits case that claims
    "that even resolution of Windsor on the merits at the Supreme Court won’t answer the remaining questions in [this case]."

    As far as I can tell, the immigration-benefits case claims that resolution on the merits will not resolve their case only if SCOTUS decides that DOMA Section 3 is *constitutional*. There's no argument that if SCOTUS eliminates DOMA Section 3, that there will still be remaining questions in their case. (And I think they would be shooting themselves in the foot to argue so?)

    Please correct me if I'm wrong!

  • 2. Fr. Bill  |  January 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Does anyone know if Tracy Dice, the legal wife of Army Staff Sgt. Donna Johnson who was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan Oct. 1, has filed a DOMA suit for the benefits she is being denied because of DOMA? I'd like to see BLAG's brief on that. Too bad this isn't before the Supfreme Court.

  • 3. Rich  |  January 9, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    On another matter, the Presidential Inagural Committe announced today that Richard Blanco, a
    Cuban- American gay man who currently lives in my home state of Maine will be the National Poet at President Obama's Inaguration. He is 44 years old and his story is fascinating. Google the name for further information.

  • 4. Mike in Baltimore  |  January 9, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Right, the resolution the defendants are seeking MAY be in their favor IF SCOTUS rules section 3 is unconstitutional, but:

    1. What if SCOTUS rules it constitutional?

    2. There are other laws (specifically immigration laws) that spell out the definition of spouse. Does SCOTUS saying section 3 of DoMA is unConstitutional mean those other laws are also unConstitutional in part or in whole? Even if some were enacted years or decades before DoMA? That's like saying because a law contains A and B, and SCOTUS says that A is unConstitutional, B is also unConstitutional. It may be, or it may not be.

    In a final analysis, we won't know how, or how much, a SCOTUS decision on DoMA will or will not affect any other case. In fact, the court may decide that BLAG does not have standing (for the specific DoMA case) and the agreement DoJ signed at the 2nd Circuit means there is no case for SCOTUS to decide. The decision that SCOTUS makes thus could totally affect, greatly affect, affect a bit, or have no effect, on the immigration case. Or SCOTUS might not make ANY decision. In four of the five scenarios, there very well could be portions of the case that are still open to litigation. And even if SCOTUS decides section 3 is constitutional, the litigants (and there may be hundreds in the papers and testimony associated with the suit) face long-term, or even permanent barment to exiting their home country, or entering the US.

    So next time, maybe you should slow down a bit in reading and/or try to comprehend a bit more.

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